Where is the "epiphany" in James Joyce's "Araby"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The epiphany of "Araby" comes at the conclusion of the story.  As the boy "lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless," he realizes that his idealization of Mangan's sister has been a senseless imagining to take him away from the "brown imperturbable faces" of his life"

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

The boy derides himself for having imagined the girl in religious and romantic ways: As he watches the girl through a window, he presses his hand together until they tremble, "murmuring" as in prayer, "O love! O love! many times" as though reciting the Hail Mary repeatedly on the rosary.  Later, he runs through the crowd with her name on his lips as he "bore [his] chalice safely through a throng of foes."  Mangan's sister is like the Holy Grail to him in an Arthurian legend.

In contrast to his idealization of love, the bazaar is anything but exotic.  Realizing the pettiness of the place, the boy "allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in [his]pocket."  Like the pennies, the bazaar is cheap and lowly against the idealism of his infatuation.  The boy' s epiphany comes as the symbols of purity and perfection that the boy has imagined in Mangan's sister converge with reality; he is no longer a child and his eyes sting with his anguished and angry initiation into adulthood and its realities.